Book Review: Patrick Gale’s Notes from an Exhibition

Notes from an ExhibitionNotes from an Exhibition by Patrick Gale

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a novel about the death of an artist that allows an exploration of her family, with key themes of manic depression, the Quaker religion, artistic inspiration, and the effects of living with a difficult parent and family member.

I’d never read any Patrick Gale and was recommended to, and to start with this book. I was completely drawn into it and engaged, by the characters and by the landscape. The writing is beautiful but not showy. He writes with a huge amount of emotional intelligence.

Still, I’m not sure of the magic of why I liked it so much. I’ve fallen a little into the scourage of relatability (…) lately, talking about books that I like less, and that it’s often because I can’t find a character to cling onto, like, relate to.

But there’s no particular reason to relate to the characters in this family, but I really found them interesting and the writing engaging. The way the story unfolded was particularly skillful though, allowing perspectives of different characters, moving backwards and forwards in time but in a way that I couldn’t predict, that didn’t seem as formulaic as other books of the type with multiple narrators and time periods.

I always find it a bonus to read a novel and learn something new also, and for a religion, Quakers sound awfully nice folks… and while I’ve met a few manic-depressives and read about it, Gale’s exploration in this novel gave me further insight. It makes me interested to read more of Gale’s work, a high mark of success to me of a good book.

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